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Archive for August, 2008

So we’ve been saving money for almost 18 months. We’ve sacrificed a lot as far as not going out nearly as often as we were accustomed to, eating dinner in, for me, not going to as many sporting events, and for my wife, not buying clothes and other accessories like purses (thank God). It’s been a HUGE sacrifice for both of us.

Friends and family and even random people that we find ourselves talking to about the trip ask us all the time how we can afford to take a year off and go on a trip like this. And while part of the reason is because of our fortunate current living situation, the main reason is because we just haven’t bought a bunch of stuff. We have never bought a new, fancy TV. Still using the same one I got as a college graduation present from Megan’s parents. Our table that we eat on and the hutch that we use are both Megan’s grandmother’s that we got after she passed. Our TV stand and bookcase in our living room is from Target and 5 years old. Our coffee table is still the same one that was used in college. Our bedroom set is from Megan’s sister. The majority of our kitchen stuff were wedding presents. Megan is still driving a 2001 Hyundai Sonata despite being an attorney making a good chunk of coin. I drive a 2007 Toyota Matrix (bought before the planned trip), but it’s still one of the cheaper new cars we could have bought at the time.

You probably see where I’m going with this. While the majority of our friends own houses, nicer cars, nicer tv’s, nicer furniture, etc., we are still stuck in “year after college” mode with a bunch of “hand-me-down” stuff, despite the fact that we have been out of college for 6 and 7 years. It’s all about priorities. There is certainly nothing wrong with having nice, fun toys. I would love to have a 52 inch, hi-def, flatscreen tv. Megan would love to be able to drive her coworkers to lunch without being embarrassed. But we want to be able to travel for a year without working even more than we want stuff, and that’s why this trip is possible.

So where is all this going? After not buying much for ourselves for the past year and a half, we are finally able to bust into all that money we’ve been saving to start buying clothes and gear for the trip. Yesterday, Megan received a 27 pound box that we ordered from backcountry.com, filled with clothes. As we are getting closer to the departure date, we are also getting closer to having a more concrete packing list. As far as clothes go, after receiving our package last night, I am pretty damn close to knowing exactly what clothes I am bringing. My wife, well, not so much, but let’s just say that it’s because I’m simpler than she, not because of my superior organizational skills.

So after all this, here is what my packing list of clothes looks like:

Underwear-ex officio lightweight, quick dry underwear – not sure exactly how many I’m bringing, but probably between 3 and 5

Shirts-5 total shirts; 2 lightweight t-shirts, 1 button up short sleeve shirt, 1 button up long sleeve shirt, and 1 lightweight base layer

Pants/Shorts- 3 total; 1 pair of lightweight REI pants; 2 pairs of lightweight zip-off pants that also serve as shorts

Fleece- 1 lightweight microfleece

Jacket- 1 rain jacket

Socks- still not sure on this, but probably 3 pairs of Smartwool socks

Long Underwear- 1 pair of lightweight bottoms

Shoes- 1 pair of hiking/walking/cross-training shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops (that’s right, 2 pairs of shoes for a year!–just wait until my wife posts her packing list)

Hats- 2 – 1 Cardinals hat (have to represent to Redbirds in places like Bolivia and Cambodia) and a hiking hat

That’s it. Those are the clothes I’m going to live in for an entire year. Now of course, I’m sure I’ll have to buy a thing here or there while we’re gone, but for the most part, that’s it. Stick around for more as we get closer and closer. I’m sure Megan will get her packing list up here at some point, and then we’ll get a full packing list of everything we’re bringing, complete with pictures.

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Scenes from an office:

Megan, knocking on door of corner office: Hi, do you have a minute?

Big Boss: Sure, come on in.

M: Mind if I close the door?

BB: Uh-oh. That’s never good.

M: Oh, no, its not bad. Just, maybe… unusual? [pause, awkwardly] My husband and I have talked about traveling the world since we met. We’ve decided that right now is the best time to do some long-term travelling. I’m here to request a leave of absence from the firm.

BB: . . .

M:*grins*

BB: Huh. Well, how long are we talking?

M: Weeeeelllll, we don’t have a set itinerary, and actually, we don’t have a set return date. But the current plan is to be gone for about a year.

***crickets***

Luckily, the end result of the exchange above was confirmation that I work for an extremely cool bunch of people. My firm was gracious enough to grant me a leave of absence while we are away, meaning that I will work until September 30, 2008, and will have a job to return to when we come back to St. Louis in the fall of 2009.

Of course, there are no guarantees, so circumstances could change, and the firm could choose to fill my position while I’m gone. I would be disappointed if that happened, but ultimately I’m ok with that possibility–the last thing I want is to come back to a department filled with resentful colleagues because they have been working like dogs for a year to pick up my slack.

I think that, in this one instance, the faltering real estate market (and weak economy as a whole) has actually helped me out. If we were as busy as we were a year or two ago, it’s unlikely there would be any way that the firm could have gone an entire year with an open associate position. My real hope is that the firm is glad to have my salary freed up for a year. I can’t really speak to that though–my invitation to the management committee meetings keeps getting lost in the interoffice mail.

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TWO MONTHS TO GO!!!

So today marks two months until our departure.  Excitement and exhilaration has quickly turned to panic and nervousness.  Not panic and nervousness in the sense that we are rethinking our decision to take this trip (sorry moms and dads) because that is certainly not the case.  We’re more excited than ever.  But we did make a to-do list recently, and, well, let’s say it isn’t small.  But we have recently made some headway in our planning and preparations.

Just a few hours ago we booked an apartment in the San Telmo barrio (basically another word for neighborhood; I’m just trying to sound smart) of Buenos Aires for a month.  So that tightens up the itinerary just a bit.  We now have three things set in stone.  We will leave St. Louis on October 15 and fly to Lima, Peru.  We will leave for our hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on November 5, and then we have an apartment booked in Buenos Aires from December 19 to January 19.

So things are starting to come together.  We have been shopping both online and in stores to finish up getting all our clothing and gear, and that has been both expensive and exciting.  We will definitely update our gear page when we finalize everything.  You wouldn’t think that shopping would be that difficult considering we’re only taking a few items of clothing each, but when you’re only bringing two shirts, you have to be picky about which shirts you bring.

We hope to knock more off the list in the coming weeks before we go to Florida with Megan’s family for a week starting on Labor Day weekend.  But we have quickly realized that we have plans almost every weekend up until we leave, so finding the time to get everything done is becoming a stressful thing.

That’s all for now, until next time….

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